Skeletal muscle regeneration is a powerful, naturally occurring process of tissue reconstruction that follows myofiber damage secondary to myotoxic injury that does not normally affect the tissue circulation and scaffold. The ablated tissue, in traumatology and free muscle grafts, is frequently replaced by scars. The final outcome is poor even after in situ myoblast seeding of the harvested muscle. The goal of this study was to identify protocols to reconstruct muscle tissue, even in such adverse environments. The authors applied a step-by-step approach to identify factors favoring the survival of autologous satellite cells and, thus, muscle regeneration. In a rat model of full-thickness rectus abdominis muscle ablation, autologous myoblasts were isolated from the explanted rectus abdominis and seeded in a homologous acellular matrix immediately after wall reconstruction (group 1, five animals). In group 2 (five animals), the ablated rectus abdominis was autografted in situ. In a third group of five rats, Marcaine was injected into both the autograft and the surrounding abdominal wall muscle. Three weeks after surgery, serial cross-sections of the reconstructed abdominal wall were stained with hematoxylin and eosin or embryonic myosin antibody, a well-characterized molecular marker of early myogenesis in development and regeneration. Percentages of the patch area covered by regenerated myofibers were determined by morphometry.
When autologous myoblasts were seeded in a homologous acellular matrix, the only myofibers observed to regenerate were those along the border of the patch. Autografting of the middle third of the rectus abdominis muscle similarly resulted in scar formation. The few muscle cells in the graft core were scanty myoblasts that could be detected only by monoclonal embryonic myosin antibody. Although negative for myofiber regeneration, the results in both cases confirmed the mechanical patency of the patches with regard to abdominal organ support. Myofibers were successfully regenerated in the graft by injecting Marcaine into both the autograft and the surrounding muscles. Three weeks after surgery, the patch was paved with young, centrally nucleated myofibers intermixed with young myofibers and myotubes expressing embryonic myosin. The difference in percentage of patch area covered by regenerated myofibers in group 3 (Marcaine injection around the patch, 81.6 ± 3.0 percent) (mean ± SD) versus either group 1 (Myoblast-seeded acellular patch, 18.0 ± 3.0 percent) or group 2 (Autograft, 25.8 ± 7.0 percent) was statistically significant on independent t test analysis (p < 0.0001). Even an acellular matrix showed some myofiber regeneration after surrounding muscles had been injected with Marcaine. This is the first successful evidence of muscle reconstruction after full-thickness ablation of the middle third of the rectus abdominis. Muscle regeneration seems to be the result of successive waves of migration of angioblasts and then satellite cell-derived myoblasts from the muscles surrounding the patch. The results strongly suggest that vascularization of the scaffold and successive coordinate proliferation of the seeded cells are required for myoblasts to be able to migrate into the patch and differentiate up to myofiber stage.
From the Clinic of Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery, Department of Surgical Science, and the C.N.R. Institute of Neuroscience, Neuromuscular Section, Laboratory of Applied Myology, Department of Biomedical Science, University of Padua.
Received for publication August 4, 2003; revised December 5, 2003.
Ugo Carraro, M.D., Laboratory of Applied Myology, Department of Biomedical Science, University of Padua, Viale G. Colombo 3, I-35121 Padova, Italy, email@example.com